Novelty, Unpredictability and Complexity are keys to Flow: Look for Them

Martin Karl Vanags
2 min readJan 20, 2022


Strive for novelty, unpredictability, and complexity. Yes, that’s right. If you strive for these types of experiences you will be in flow more often and you will be happier. Research has shown that people who are in flow are happier and more fulfilled more of the time than those who are not.

This doesn’t mean that you will be happy while in flow, just that you will be happier when you come out of flow and out of flow you must come. Some folks say they are in flow all the time, but that simply isn’t biologically possible. Your brian and body couldn’t sustain that type of intensity.

Let’s take a peek at each of these experiences.

Novelty — The brain loves novelty. Novelty is the experience that is either dangerous or exciting and it is just beyond the horizon. New things excites your neurons and generates all types of pleasure inducing chemicals in your brain. Think about what it feels like to drive through a new part of the country or through the mountains or along the seashore. A new view or sight to see every few moments.

Unpredictability — Ever watch a thriller or a really good movie. You think you will know what is going to happen and at the very end the whole movie turns on its head the killer isn’t who you thought it was going to be. Unpredictability combined with novelty has been shown to generate dopamine (a brain chemical associated with satisfaction) at rates similar to substances like cocaine. Unpredictability causes us to focus more and this moves us into flow.

Complexity — Nature generates our ideas regarding complexity. Being in awe at the California coastline at Big Sur, or hiking through the mountains forces us to concentrate on the wonders of nature and how it came to be.

If you want more flow in your life, which means you are concentrating more and being highly productive, and thus generating more fulfillment and happiness in your life, then concentrate on these three experiences and get more of them in your life.

Creating environments and situations where you will find novelty, unpredictability and complexity will give you more flow.

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Martin Karl Vanags

You can find me thinking and writing about economics, communities, technology, the future, and human performance. Find me at www.